July 2009 Newsletter

Greetings!

 
Depending on where you live in the world, forty years ago on July 20 was a pretty amazing day.  In case you don’t remember, or haven’t heard it mentioned in the news that was the day that Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon.
 
I remember watching it on the black and white television in our family room.  I imagine that anyone else old enough to remember 1969 can also tell you where they were when they heard the event. Do you know which foot Neil stepped onto the moon first with?  See the answer in the 3rd article. Think about the evolution of computers during that time as well.  Remember the computers that we would see on the television during the NASA launches? They were the size of a room.  Now, some of the new Power6 IBM i (AS/400s) are the size of a large desktop and can run your entire company.  It really is amazing how far technology has come, and the speed with which it keeps changing.  This brings me to my point:  I keep meeting new customers who call me for help, and I see old 7xx, 150, 270, and 8xx generation machines.  These machines cost more in electrical power, cooling, hardware maintenance, and software maintenance than a new box with a three year lease would cost. In addition, the new boxes probably have a hundred times the amount of horsepower.  If this is your situation, get in touch with Glenn via email or call him at 718-898-9805 to discuss how he can lower your cost of ownership and provide you with a newer more powerful machine.
 
This issue of our newsletter has four articles. In the first, we want to make you aware of the command RCLDBXREF. The second article is on making the transition to i5/OS V6R1 easier. The third article is on backup and recovery of your system.  The last article is for your reference with updated PTF information for your use.
 
We receive a lot of calls from customers who haven’t had a chance to upgrade and now have an urgent need because they realize that their support has ended.  As a reminder, support for i5/OS V5R3 ended April 30, 2009. Give us a call, and we will do the upgrade to V5R4 or V6R1 for you.

iTech Solutions can help you improve performance, upgrade i5/OS, perform security audits, implement a High Availability solution, VoIP, Systems Management, PTF management, Blade installations, iSCSI Configurations, upgrade an existing machine, or upgrade to a new machine.  If you are thinking of LPAR or HMC, then think iTech Solutions.  We have the skills to help you get the most out of your System i. 

For more information on any of the articles below please visit us at on the web at iTech Solution  or  email iTech Solutions.

Reclaim Database Cross Reference.
Light

 
Here is a command that I like to use to check the status of the database cross reference files, or to make sure that each file in a library doesn’t have a problem. 

The Reclaim Database Cross-Reference (RCLDBXREF) command recovers the database cross-reference catalog data for a specific library.  This command provides a subset of the function provided by the Reclaim Storage (RCLSTG) command to reclaim the database cross-reference catalog data for the system by specifying SELECT(*DBXREF).  The difference is that this command does not require the system to be in restricted state, and it supports a reclaim of a specific library, rather than all libraries on the system. Additionally this command provides an interface for the user to determine which catalogs have inconsistencies, and which libraries are affected.

You can use the RCLDBXREF command to reclaim the database cross reference files for a library RCLDBXREF OPTION(*FIX) LIB(libname), or to check that there are no problems with the system cross reference files RCLDBXREF OPTION(*CHECK).

How to make your transition to i5/OS 6.1 easier.

          IBM i Operating System

I recently wrote an article with Roxanne Reynolds-Lair on how to make your transition to IBM i5/OS 6.1 (V6R1) easier.  This article appeared in the April 2009 issue of COMMON Connect, and the second quarter 2009 issue of IBM Systems Magazine Asia Pacific edition. 

In the article, we cover some of the reasons and benefits of upgrading to 6.1, why upgrading to 6.1 is so different than upgrading to other  releases of OS/400 or i5/OS, using ANZOBJCVN, and dealing with your application vendors for programs that won’t convert to 6.1. There is no doubt that 6.1 has been rock solid for some time. The challenge has been to make sure your application programs are capable of converting and working on 6.1. iTech Solutions was told by a member of the IBM Rochester team that we have probably done the most i5/OS upgrades to 6.1 in the northeast.

Here is the first four paragraphs of the article, and you will find the rest of the article at the link below.

“IBM i 6.1, which you might have called i5/OS V6R1 at one point, is the level of the IBM i operating system that you should be using. This is a release that is rich with functionality, as well as some new features .If you are not already on this release, you should be starting to plan your upgrade, and this article offers some helpful tips on how to make the transition easy.

Before we get into some of the planning issues, there are some important dates to highlight. If you are currently on V5R3, be aware that it will no longer be supported by IBM after April 30, 2009. Therefore, you should be looking to upgrade to either V5R4 or 6.1, with the preference being 6.1. IBM hasn’t stated when support will end for V5R4, but it will be withdrawn from marketing in January 2010.
One of the key differences with upgrading to 6.1 vs. previous operating system releases is that all the programs on your system go through a recreation step at some time during the upgrade process. When we went from CISC to RISC, we called this re-encapsulation. The 6.1 recreation is very similar in concept but much easier in practice. To recreate a program, its creation data, which is a subset of its observable information, must be available. If your program was created at V5R1 of i5/OS or later, you already have creation data. If your program was created prior to V5R1 and you have not removed observability, then you also already have creation data. For those programs with creation data, you do not need to take any special actions to prepare for the 6.1 upgrade. However, if you don’t have creation data, you will need to have the source to recompile the program prior to your upgrade to 6.1.
To help identify programs that could pose problems, IBM has created a tool called ANZOBJCVN, which should be run on V5R3 or V5R4 of i5/OS a few months prior to your upgrade to 6.1.”
For the remainder of the article, please click here. I hope you enjoy the article. iTech Solutions has been busy upgrading customers to V6R1 all this year, so we have the experience and expertise to make your upgrade go extremely smooth.
Let us do the upgrade for you, contact us.

 

Backups and Disaster Recovery testing

magnifying glass

The answer to the question in the opening section of this newsletter is: It was his left foot.

I know that disaster recovery testing is not always something that we like to do, but it really is a necessity.  Every customer does some type of backup.  Notice that I didn’t state that every customer backs up their system.  Those two statements are extremely different.  What I have seen from all the customer visits that I do through the year is that everyone backs up some of their data, I rarely see a customer attempt to restore what has been backed up.

 
First, we need to make sure that you are truly backing up your system.  If you have a product like BRMS, you can run a report which will tell you what you haven’t backed up, as well as a recovery report.  If you don’t use BRMS, how do you know that you have backed everything up?  The easiest backup solution is to do a “GO SAVE” and take option 21.  That will do a complete system backup.  Most customers don’t have the time to do this every night. They sure would be lucky if they did, as recovery would be a snap.  Therefore, most of the time we are putting various pieces of the save back together to recover a system.  The reason we do a recovery test is to insure that we have all the pieces to put the system back together in the event of a real emergency. 
 
Let us identify the pieces that are required to put your system back together and the save commands.  
 
1) SAVSYS – This command backs up the Licensed Internal code, operating system, configuration objects, and security on the system.  This command requires that the machine be in a restricted state. The Licensed Internal code and the operating system only change  after an i5/OS upgrade or when you put PTFs on, so you would really only require a SAVSYS when either of those two events happen. At a minimum, I like to see this quarterly.  What about the Configuration and Security data? These change every day. The following two commands can be run each night, and your system does not need to be in a restricted state for these commands to run. You can run a SAVCFG which will backup the configuration objects on your machine, and then a SAVSECDTA which will backup all the security information on your machine, including user profiles. 
 
2) SAVLIB *NONSYS – This backs up all the libraries on your system, but requires the system to be in a restricted state.  When you are in a restricted state you won’t have other jobs running that may hold locks.  Therefore, every object is backed up.  You could instead run these two commands and not be in a restricted state, but if other jobs are locking objects in libraries, those will not be backed up. The commands SAVLIB *IBM and SAVLIB *ALLUSR together backup all the libraries of the SAVLIB *NONSYS.  Just as you would expect, the parameter for *IBM will backup all the IBM libraries, and the *ALLUSR will backup all the user libraries.  My preference is for a SAVLIB *NONSYS, and I would like to see this at least weekly.  If you can’t get to a restricted state, you could run a SAVLIB *IBM the same time you run a SAVSYS, and then run the SAVLIB *ALLUSR preferably nightly or, at a minimum, weekly. If you run the SAVLIB *ALLUSR weekly, you need to be backing up your libraries that contain your data and programs that are changing each day.  Daily, you can do a SAVLIB libraryname for each library that you have data and programs in that are changing. I would prefer a SAVLIB *ALLUSR daily as it will make your recovery so much easier. I am not a big fan of SAVCHGOBJ, because it makes recovery too difficult for most customers. In the end I have found if I run a SAVCHGOBJ vs. a SAVLIB for a library, with the current fast tape technology, the time isn’t much different between backing up the entire library or backing up only the objects that have changed,  but the recovery implications are much more difficult when using SAVCHOBJ.  My preference is a SAVLIB *ALLUSR each and every night if time permits.
 
3) SAVDLO – While you probably don’t have many Document Library Objects on your system, we do need this backup to recover the system. The preference for this is nightly.
 
4) SAV – This is the part that most customers tend to forget about. This is the backup of all the files in the IFS.  If you are using Lotus Notes or IBM WebSphere the IFS is where these two products store much of their data.  You should be backing the IFS using the SAV command daily if you have either of these products, or if the iSeries is hosting storage for an integrated X-Series Server (that is hence stored in the IFS), or if you have any application that writes information to the IFS. If you don’t have applications that update the IFS daily, then a weekly backup of the IFS should be fine.
 
Now that I have explained what is required to be backed up, what are you backing up?  Also, just backing it up is only half the solution.  You need to have a documented procedure on what gets backed up when, so that when a recovery is required, you the details to put all the pieces back together.  
 
How sure are you that you can recover your system from your backup?  Are you willing to bet your job on it?  Well you already are if you are not testing your recovery.  We need to examine your system to determine what is being backed up and when, find out whether tou know where your pieces are in case a recovery is needed. Do you even have all the pieces?   If you would like for us to come in and do this analysis for you or with you, just give us a call. See how simple it is having iTech Solutions do the work for you. Email Pete Massiello at  pmassiello@itechsol.com .

Release levels and PTFs
 

iSeries Family

People are always asking me how often they should be performing PTF maintenance, and when is the right time to upgrade their operating system.  I updated this article from last month with the current levels of PTFs. Let’s look at PTFs.  First, PTFs are Program Temporary Fixes that are created by IBM to fix a problem that has occurred or to possibly prevent a problem from occurring.  In addition, some times PTFs add new functionality, security, or improve performance.  Therefore, I am always dumbfounded as to why customers do not perform PTF maintenance on their machine at least quarterly.  If IBM has come out with a fix for your disk drives, why do you want to wait for your disk drive to fail with that problem, only to be told that there is a fix for that problem, and if you had applied the PTF beforehand, you would have averted the problem.  Therefore, I think a quarterly PTF maintenance strategy is a smart move.  Many of our customers are on our quarterly PTF maintenance program, and that provides them with the peace of mind of knowing their system is up to date on PTFs.  Below is a table of the major group PTFs for the last few releases.  You might notice that this week, IBM just created a new Security PTF Group, so I have added this to our list, as we are installing this for our customers on iTech Solutions Quarterly Maintenance program.
Releases

                     6.1    V5R4    V5R3    V5R2
Cumul. Pack   9111   9104    8267   6080

Grp Hipers        41     106     169      189

DB Group          10       21      24        25

Java Group        9        20      23        27

Print Group        9       31       20         7

Backup/Recov.   8       25       33        31

Security Group   10       9         7         –

Blade/IXA/IXS    11      11        –          –
Http                    8       19      17         –



The easiest way to check your levels is to issue the command WRKPTFGRP.  They should all have a status of installed, and you should be up to the latest for all the above, based upon your release.  Now there are more groups than the ones listed above, but these are the general ones that most people require.  We can help you know which group PTFs you should be installing on your machine based upon your licensed programs. Here is a nice tidbit.  The Cumulative PTF package number is broken down as YDDD, where Y is the year and DDD is the day it was released.  Therefore, if we look at the cumulative package for V5R4, the ID is 9104. We can determine that it was created on the 104th day of 2009, which is April 14, 2009.  Look at your machine and this will give you a quick indication of just how far out of date in PTFs you may be.  I left V5R1 off the list, because if you are on V5R1, you don’t need to be worrying about PTFs, you really need to be upgrading your operating system.  The same can be said for V5R2 and V5R3, but there are still customers who are on those releases.

If you have an HMC, you should be running V7R3.4.0 with Service Pack 2 and PTF MH01181 installed. This PTF is Required for V7.3.4.
For your Flexible Service Processor (FSP) that is inside your Power 5 or Power5+ (520, 515, 525, 550, 570), the code level of the FSP should be 01_SF240_382. Power 6 (940x M15, M25, & M50 machines, and 8203-E4A & 8204-E4A) customers should be running EL340_075.  For Power6 (MMA, 560, and 570 machines) your FSP should be at EM340_075. If you have a Power6 595 (9119-FMA) then you should be on EH340_075.
If you need help with upgrading your HMC or FSP just give us a call.  We will be happy to perform the function for you or assist you in doing it. Contact Pete Massiello.

 

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